The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Sunday, October 29, 2006


In pursuit of yet another self-indulgent Google-fest, masquerading as a Sunday post, I decided to put "span" in and click...

The A and N often seemed to stand for Action Network. For example the Suicide Prevention Action Network in the USA, the Single Parents Action Network in the UK, EU-funded Strategic Planning Action Network, the American Student Peace Action Network, Ohio's Single Payer Action Network, and the School Pyschologists Action Network.

The Small Publishers Association of North American worries me - shouldn't that make SPANA? Isn't that worrying given they are publishers? Similarly, the Student Project for Amity Among Nations ought to spell out SPAAN, hmm maybe entrance standards aren't that high at the University of Minnesota.

Then there's New Jersey's Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, California's Spay/Neuter Animal Network, the Dutch Security PhD Association Netherlands, Spelthorne's Personal Alarm Network, Solidarity Philipines Australia Network from across the ditch, and Arlington's Street People's Assistance Network.

And, although it's not an acronym, it's always nice to know that there's a Norwegian punk band that shares your name.

Spanblather itself came up in spot 222 and after that I stopped bothering.

Now, I wonder what else DPF might stand for...

Friday, October 27, 2006

A photo for the weekend

Hopefully this will work as a good weather talisman!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I'm a little perturbed at politics and political coverage lately. I haven't written about the pledge card and associated election spending shendengle because I've largely agreed with Idiot/Savant and when I've had time I've indulged myself, in the form of a scattering of comments, over on No Right Turn.*

But it seems that National is unable to get out of Attack Attack Attack mode. Russell Brown has written today about two recent beat-ups by Nat MPs, Simon Power and Tony Ryall (aka Secret Smile), and I suspect that these will continue. National has had a great opportunity to score points against Labour in recent months (two actually, if you count the Taito Phillip Field saga as well) and has certainly fulfilled part of the role of the Opposition; to hold the Government accountable. In the last Parliament it often felt that this vital function was left to Act.

But there's another, very important role, that the Opposition should play, and that National needs to remind itself about; putting up an alternative. With many of the issues that National is raising it's unclear to me what a National-led government would change or manage differently.

It's disappointing also that many of the media don't seem to be asking that simple question: What Would National Do?

One of the reasons I like National Radio so much, is that the interviewers (eg Sean Plunkett, Mary Wilson, Kathryn Ryan) do tend to pose this query, and the answer is often very revealing. For example, Plunkett asked Ryall this morning if he would still have chosen to give his child the meningitis vaccine if he had known about the ACC claims beforehand. Ryall said yes he would (although he then went on to say "because the risks outweigh the benefits", which I'm assuming was just a mistake because otherwise he makes no sense!)

So it seems we are still waiting for the National-led policy debate that Don Brash promised over a month ago in the heat of the revelations about his private life. I'm starting to wonder - why don't National want to talk about their ideas?

* To sum up my thoughts:
1. I believe that the parties whose spending was found unlawful genuinely thought it was inside the rules at the time.
2. It seems to me that the Auditor General has changed the established custom and practice, if not the letter of the law.
3. National is using this as an opportunity to foment public opposition to any public funding of political process beyond the actual mechanics of the vote itself. This is a great danger to our democracy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Who you gonna call?

I recently read a Marie-Claire article about abortion counselling in Australia. The article worryingly showed that the main free phone lines for abortion counselling across the Tasman were all related to, or run by, anti-abortion groups. There were some horror stories about the kind of advice being given out to women seeking open minds and all the options, but finding only guilt trips and judgement in spades.*

I decided to do a little sleuthing of my own in NZ to see if there was a similar trend here. Now of course this isn't at the level of investigation a proper journalist would do, but...

Of the 52 "pregnancy services"** listed on the Yellow Pages site:

The first listing is Family Life International, whose tag on the Yellow Pages site is "Our mission is to bring the pro-life family message to as many people as possible in NZ and polynesia. We are here to help you!" Now their toll free counselling number, 0800 FOR LIFE, would hopefully give some women an idea of the politics of this organisation, but for many, looking for an objective counsellor and someone to talk to, they wouldn't necessarily pick up on this, particularly as many of the listings don't mention the words that the numbers spell. FLI also promote on their websites various Catholic organisations, including Project Rachel, a "post-abortion supoprting and healing" service. I'd say there may well be a heavy guilt focus, judging from these quotes:

"Are you hurting from a recent or past abortion?
"Do you experience feelings of guilt, anxiety, shame, or fear whenever you recall your abortion experience?
"An abortion is one of the most traumatic experiences that a woman
can go through. It is much more than just a simple medical procedure and it has
serious implications for a woman's emotional, physiological, and spiritual
"While every woman's experience is unique, the common thing that
is shared amongst those that have experienced an abortion is the overwhelming
sense of loss and grief."

The sixth listing is a counselling service called Education for Change which appears to be totally focused on quitting smoking (including during pregnancy) and SIDS. They pop up a number of times in the listings.

In the eighth spot is Pregnancy Counselling Services' National Office. Their rules at the time of foundation can be found on the Voluntary Organisations Register and include the following gems:

4. ... (b) That all human life is inviolable from conception.
5. ... (c) That the killing of children by induced abortion is not a proper or
necessary solution for women having difficulty in coping with their
pregnancies or in need for any reason.
(d) That the killing of children by induced abortion is bad medical practice and is harmful to the mental and physical health of women.

They have a toll-free number that isn't at all transparent (0800 NEED 2 TALK) and branches in 22 towns and cities through-out the country. Nowhere on their website (which is quite spartan) does it mention that they are a pro-life group.
The eleventh listing is PCS again. The fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth services are local PCS branches.

The seventeenth listing is for The Pregnancy Centre in PN, which I couldn't find anything out about, other than the fact it is run by (or just supported by?) PALM, a church group. I couldn't find anything overtly pro-life or pro-choice in their mission statement. If anything they sound very open-minded, but I note that they seem to be an umbrella group for a very wide variety of denominations, and as such it really depends who runs The Pregnancy Centre as to whether it provides independent counselling or not.

The eighteenth listing is for Parents Place in Hamilton. From a quick skim of their details on the Voluntary Organisations Register they appear to be basically a pro-parent group more than anything else.

The twenty first listing is PCS again, the twenty second is the Family Life Crisis Pregnancy Centre in Pt Chev, which I think I can assume with a high amount of probability is run by FLI, as the Pregnant and worried website FLI run mentions a "Crisis Pregnancy Centre".

The twenty third listing is for an organisation called The House of Grace Trust Inc. Now to be fair this one doesn't put itself out there as a pregnancy counselling service, it is a house for pregnant teens which gives them a safe environment for their pregnancy and teaches them life skills, which I tend to think is a much needed opportunity for many young women. Just as well it isn't a counselling service really, as it is affiliated to Heartbeat International, a well-known anti-abortion group.

The twenty ninth listing is FLI again. Thirty eighth on the list is FLI yet again.

Listings thirty nine and forty are for Pregnancy Help Inc. This is an organisation with a number of pregnancy and maternity services including counselling and free local phone lines. I didn't notice anything in their rules on the Voluntary Organisations Register that indicated a tendency either way on the abortion issue, and there is nothing on their website either.

Listing forty two is for "Pregnancy Counselling 24HR Services Inc", which gives a Tauranga number on the Yellow Pages site. A few cursory searches didn't come up with anything about them, but there is no such incorporated society listed in the Voluntary Organisations Register (the aforementioned PCS is the closest in terms of name).

The remaining listings, of the 52 total, don't appear to offer counselling, but cover such services as midwifery, family planning, maternity, fertility and baby clothing and the like.

Going solely on the Yellow Pages site, it appears that there are three organisations that dominate pregancy counselling in NZ; Pregnancy Counselling Services, Family Life International and Pregnancy Help Inc. Two of these, as explained above, are clearly anti-abortion organisations, the third doesn't appear, from my cursory investigations, to have an opinion. And it is PCS and FLI who certainly dominate the Yellow Pages listing.

Now the Abortion Services in NZ counselling page has some interesting information. It's clear that many of those who receive counselling will do so via another medical service that they access eg GP, hospital, clinic, etc. The Abortion Supervisory Committee's standards of practice for counselling seem to apply mainly to these situations.

But I suspect that many women who find themselves pregnant and unsure about it are going to find the provision of 0800 numbers highly attractive. It's likely they'll prefer an anonymous counselling session over the phone to fronting up to the family GP for the very first conversation on their options. If they turn first to the Yellow Pages, to find that number, it's highly likely they'll end up chatting with a member of a group that is staunchly anti-abortion, which is bound to undermine the informed consent process.

Wouldn't it be great if there was an independent pregnancy counselling services, with a nationwide free phone line, a 24 hour service, and enough money to advertise widely enough that it was the clear first option to call, rather than relying on groups whose commitment to empowering women through honest and open discussions of their options was limited by their pro-life stanch?

In related news, Ms Magazine is running a campaign to show that the women who have abortions are real, that it's a choice not just made by Those Loose Chicks In That Part of the City I Don't Live In.

*Unfortunately the article itself doesn't seem to be available online, but there is an update on the campaign sparked by Senator Natasha Stott Despoja's bill to seek transparency about the nature of pregnancy counselling lines.
** Initially I searched for "abortion counselling" and "pregnancy counselling" on the Yellow Pages site. Both of these searches only brought up one result - Family Life International. From their listing I noticed the category "Pregnancy services" which is the list the above analysis is from.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Let's raise the age of consent!

Well folks, it seems to me that there's a problem with under-age sex. Too many people are having sex too young. We can't have those young things doing stuff with their bodies that they aren't physically, emotionally or mentally able to handle.

And of course I know they can't handle it! I couldn't handle it when I was doing it at their age either! I'm sure I wouldn't have ended up with arthritis if I'd just kept it all in my pants until my sweet sixteen. Stupid fingerless gloves.

So, to recap, I don't think we need to know why those kids are doing the ol' horizontal boogie before they are legally allowed, let's just raise the age of consent. I reckon that'll fix them young folk.

[/crotchety hypocritical old person tone]

(A more serious post on the really really stupid constant revisiting of the drinking age, which I already blogged about last time around, may follow.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Can Labour be left again?

Recently I wrote about the current political vehicles for those of the Left persuasion as part of my eagerness to work out some kind of political future for myself and others with similar political concerns and predilections. Today I want to address Jordan's post responding from a Labour activist's point of view.*

Jordan outlines what he sees as Labour's Third Way solution to the problem, and asks three specific questions of people like myself:

  • What campaigning methods and communication styles do you think would develop public support for more progressive politics?
  • What key policy planks would you propose to distinguish yourselves from the moderate left?
  • How would you interact with the moderate left? A conciliatory or a hostile approach?
As the comments on his post are (unfortunately and typically) dominated by those not of the left-wing persuasion**, I'm responding here.

Campaign methods - a wide range of methods could be employed, to reflect the different ways that people engage in politics. Some are happy to go to a public meeting, others to sign a petition, many just want some information and to read the various arguments; there are of course many more techniques, tactics and strategies too. But what frustrates me about the current approach is that it seems Labour only properly campaigns, in a way that involves the public and doesn't just deliver the Good News from on high, when it isn't in government. This attitude needs to change. I know that when the Alliance was in government the grassroots activists were often pushing to campaign on this or that piece of legislation to put across the arguments and vitalise public support, but the leadership wasn't keen, they had Other Ways of delivering (which tended to fail). The Civil Unions Act is the one piece of legislation I can think of that Labour has treated in a campaign way, and of course that was a conscience vote and Labour itself maintained some distance.

One key part of successful campaigns is timing. You can't just strike up a campaign a month before the vote is on in the House and expect the public to fall in behind. A media statement is not going to create a groundswell. It's necessary to genuinely engage with actual people over a length of time - polling can only deliver so much, as countless election results have shown.

Another vital component is people - I have to say I'd find the Labour party a damn sight more attractive option for my active involvement if I knew that I'd be able to really campaign on issues I care about.

As for key policy planks, I'd see a commitment to a number of things as crucial.
  • Publicly provided, funded and controlled education - from early childhood to tertiary
  • Publicly provided, funded and controlled health - including primary healthcare and preventative strategies (eg Quitline, Plunket).
  • A social welfare system based on justice and fairness, and recognising the genuine levels of need of different people. Not just seeing those reliant on a benefit as worthless non-worker ants who are grudgingly given a subsistence level income. I think Working For Families has been a valuable step here, but so much more needs to be done.
  • Recognition of the Treaty commitments our nation is bound by and a meaningful ongoing education programme for all New Zealanders to overcome the misunderstandings and ignorance of the past.
  • Brave, forward-thinking, stances in the areas of gender, sexuality and racial equality - the PaEE audits are a good start and the Civil Union Act was a triumph.
  • A fair taxation system which is truly progressive, not truncated as our current structure is. We should turn our thinking on its head - raise the tax we need to fund the vision we have for our country, not limit our policies in an inevitable race to the bottom on the tax issue.
I'm not saying all of these things would have to happen overnight (and in fact I suspect I could come up with a longer list if I thought about it for a bit longer) - but a commitment, and the framework of a plan (a vision even!) to progress towards these stated end-goals would seem a minimum to me (even if the fruition of these plans is a decade or more away). It's also part of being honest with the electorate. By stating these things clearly and openly then voters can make an informed choice, can weigh up how long things might take with the possible plan for the meantime, and also parties can't rely on voters crediting them with a vision they don't actually hold because they never go into detail.

I think Jordan knows me well enough to know that for the most part I am personally reasonably concilliatory towards the moderate left. Actually I consider myself to be just to the left of moderate left, although of course that's all a matter of subjective judgement. However I acknowledge that there is a level of hostility, including at times from me. For me, and possibly others, it rises out of frustration over the vision thing, which I've written about before (probably more than once).

There is also, I feel, a certain arrogance around some in Labour, that they are the One True Left of Centre Party and the rest of us should just Grow Up, Get Mortgages and Get Real. I've received a fair bit of nastiness from people who have assumed for various reasons that I am in Labour and are then Very Very Disappointed to find out I'm not. It's the sin of hubris, and it pushes people away and makes them wary of working together. I think some of it comes out of a deep defensiveness many Labour activists feel about the Fourth Labour Government (particularly the older ones). Perhaps there needs to be some process of reconciliation before we can get past these barriers?

I don't know if acknowledging all that history counts as hostility. Maybe it does. But I think it's fair to say that the hostility isn't necessarily just from my corner of the playground...

So how do we move forward from here? I called this post "Can Labour be left again?" because I was thinking about how welcome these ideas and thoughts would genuinely be in Labour. Perhaps some of the Labour bloggers and commenters out there (many of whom I consider friends in all of this) would care to share their thoughts?

* I'd also like to post in the near future responding to Sanctuary's thought-provoking comment on my Whither the (parliamentary) Left post, but that will have to wait until I have more time I'm afraid.
** My perception is that rather than debating the issues on Jordan's blog, these commenters are instead looking for an opportunity to rip Jordan limb from limb as the local representative of Labour who they can take their hate out on without risking repurcussions for themselves.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The problem with the profit motive

Now there has been a lot of criticism, and rightly so, of China's use of organs from executed prisoners.

But yesterday I heard on Nat Rad about a massive scandal in the USA, where a New Jersey company that trades in human tissue, in particular bone marrow, has been found to be illegally sourcing some of its wares from funeral homes. Those who run the homes have acted to increase their own profits with little thought for the families of the corpses they have raided, or the dignity of those who have died. In fact they haven't even considered the safety of what they are doing - the radio story mentioned that the cause of death has been changed on some of the death certificates, so that the human tissue is more likely to be accepted as useable (and thus more money is made).

This is what happens when people put profit and greed first. And what does capitalism do? Encourages it.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Labour Weekend comes but once a year

The excellent unofficial Finsec blog, the gossip, has a good post up on the public holiday we are all entitled to on Monday - Labour Day.

I've been particularly hanging out for this Labour Day. Due to the massive amount of paid and unpaid leave taken earlier this year to sratch my travel itch, I have no annual leave until Xmas. Monday will be the first public holiday since I got back - my, it's a long time from Queens Birthday to now.

It's important though to recognise Monday for the history it has, for the struggle that it represents. That struggle sadly continues today - at the moment it feels like everytime I listen to the radio there is news of another stack of redundancies coming before Xmas. How many of us work an 8 hour day now? Or are paid for the true hours we work? And what about all those whose work is not paid at all, but remains invisible despite its huge value to us all?

I could go on ad nauseum about all the employment and worker issues that still challenge us today, but Labour Day is also a time to remember: united we stand, divided we fall. Without the collectivity of unions we wouldn't even have a holiday on Monday.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Where In The World Was Span?

With all this heavy political point-scoring going on, here's a pleasant distraction...

Below you will find five photos taken on my travels. The competition is to guess correctly where in the world each of these photos was taken. Guesses should be in the form of a comment to this post and you have to get all five right to win. I've indicated for each one the level of detail required.

If people don't seem to be getting close then I will give out some clues. I cannot guarantee that these will not be quite cryptic in nature.

And what's the prize I hear you ask? A guest post on this site, on whatever you wish to write about.

And of course the immense kudos of winning Where In The World Was Span!
Here are the pics...
Picture 1. Please name the thing this stands on, the city and the country.

Picture 2. Guessers must correctly identify the attraction (for want of a better word), city and country.

Picture 3. Kindly name the body of water, the city and the country.

Picture 4. You are stating the name of the building, city and country.

And finally, where was I when I took Picture 5? Building, city, country please.

Ok folks, let the guessing begin!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Recent comments not working properly

Dear readers,

For some reason that I can't fathom the recent comments are not coming up promptly, or at all. I suspect this is some problem at the feed end, to do with blogger, as they were coming through the Bloglines feed much faster than they were popping up here, but now even that has stopped working. They do seem to still be coming through to my email though, which is a relief.

Anyway, this is really just a notice to let you know that if you are only checking the recent comments on the sidebar then you are missing out, as there are currently new comments (since yesterday) in the following posts as well:

- Whither the (parliamentary) Left?
- What might have been
- A new lease on life IV - the end of the beginning
- Is the Young Nats a sexist organisation?

There may also be some others that I have missed, so please do have a look around rather than relying on the recent comments sidebar function at this time.

Update, same day, 10.48pm:
Thanks to a commenter for emailing to tip me off that comments have stopped working altogether in the last hour or so, since I last commented myself. ARGH! If people have comments that they want to make please feel free to email them to me (including what pseudonym/name/anon you want on them) and I will put them up as soon as blogger and work allow. Email is spanblatheratgmaildotcom.
Update, same day, 11am: Ok it seems to be a beta-only blogger problem, based on my exhaustive research that NRT is ok to comment (hasn't shifted to beta) on but CBTP isn't working (and has shifted to beta like me). The problem seems to be that the visual verification picture isn't coming up, so if it isn't fixed soon I might just switch that off for a while and see what happens...
Update, same day, 11.17am: well that was quick, you can comment again (I hope).

Thanks again for visiting and commenting!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Whither the (parliamentary) Left?

When I got back from my travels and back to blogging I said that one of the things I wanted to focus on more was the future of the NZ left, in particular in regard to the parliamentary path.

Since then I've written twice about my doubts about Labour, in particular about the lack of vision the party seems to have. No Right Turn and Just Left have also contributed to this debate, along of course with many valuable commenters. But recently we've all been a bit more focused on other matters. I'd like to get back to this subject because I really want to find a way forward for myself and possibly for others.

There are many non-parliamentary, non-party outlets (& inlets) for those interested in changing NZ for the lefter. But few hold the attractions that a political party does, as I am searching for a vehicle that not only covers a spectrum of issues but also has a structure that invites real member involvement in decision-making.

Let's look at the current options, party-wise. Since I last looked at them things have changed significantly, in terms of Rod Donald's death, the growth of the Maori Party, the election result and all the fall-out from that, the continued decline of the Alliance, etc.

In Parliament:

  • Labour - Pros: the biggest cab on the rank, with the most resources, highest profile, and the biggest political impact. The core of all future left-of-centre governments of the foreseeable future. Cons: quite simply, not left enough now and difficult to shift to the left in the medium term. No clear successor to Helen Clark who is on the left of the party, suspicion abounds after the 4th Labour Govt, plus hasn't treated other left parties well in the past.
  • Greens - Pros: politically the most left in Parliament in many areas, both in policy and in action. Some key left activists already members, eg Sue Bradford, Keith Locke. Structure-wise probably easier to get involved in than Labour. Has 5% plus following so likely to be safely in Parliament in medium term. Cons: environmental issues are priority and significant proportion of membership more Blue-Green than Red-Green (although National's shifts in this area might change that) or just Green-green.
  • Progressives - Pros: Small and possibly easy to get involved in. Cons: Jim Anderton, ambitions to be the party for small business, socially conservative in some areas eg marijuana, abortion, reliant on Anderton's seat so medium term future gloomy, policy-wise and media-wise not seen as separate from Labour. Quite old-fashioned left.
  • Maori Party - Pros: Tariana Turia hates Labour and thus maintains distance, new growing party with different approach to politics in some ways. Cons: Turia hates Labour and thus often motivated by this in a destructive way (eg how she cast her votes in the last Parliament). Focused on Maori, so appropriateness of tau iwi left being involved is questionable? Not clear whether they are left-of-centre as have little policy and seem to decide voting pattern bill by bill and even MP by MP(eg 90 Day Bill).
Outside Parliament:
  • Alliance - Pros: existing brand, mostly good left policies, some key activists with track record amongst left and valuable experience. Cons: Spent force? History. Profile members have left and media ignore those who remain. Few resources and possible struggle to maintain registration.
  • Workers Party - Pros: novelty factor, should have good left policy. Cons: likely to be seen as revolutionary and thus too fringe, some activists are not known as good at playing with others, no resources, no registration yet.
  • Socialist Workers et al - all small groups that have not succeeded in the past, and many don't actively seek votes.

Is there a possibility for a new vehicle, a new parliamentary party? There are many old players who I suspect it will be necessary to get back in the same tent again, eg Laila Harre, Jill Ovens. Many of the personal rifts that grew amongst some of those activists in the 1990s and early 2000s seem to be healing, but the deeper rift between those that left Labour in the late 1980s and those who stayed seems unresolvable for a large number.

I'm not sure that the Alliance can be the party to bring everyone back together and to enthuse and attract new people. I doubt that any of the existing parliamentary parties will work either, or it would have already happened. The only way I can see that changing is a major personnel change in Parliament, for example if Laila Harre got the vacant co-leader spot in the Greens when Jeanette Fitzsimmons goes (possibly for the 2008 election).*

Then there's the money problem. As the current funding system works there is effectively nothing for those outside parliament. Labour has signalled they may look at state funding of some sort, but the public would be highly cynical about such a move given events in recent months, and it would be a very unpopular move. Even if there was a system it would be highly skewed towards the major parties, which I think is unfair (but I've ranted about that before). Finding big pocket backers is not so hard for those on the right, but on the left it's all pensioners sparing you $1 a week off their pension and the odd union giving you $10,000 at election time if they haven't spent it all on Labour already.

But the biggest hurdle of all to a new party is really the 5% threshold. It effectively holds new left parties out, meaning the only possibilities are:

  • Capture a seat - best done by seducing an existing MP away from another party (Labour probably), or building around someone who leaves of their own accord (as the Maori Party did). But then you become beholden to them and many with a past in the Alliance would be wary of going down that road again.
  • Plug away for years and years on the outside pouring in resources (no taxpayer funding except for a small amount of broadcasting money every three years) and asking people to commit to possibly wasting their votes for several elections before success. Risky in the extreme, and likely to churn through a remarkable number of activists. Parties outside Parliament end up playing electoral catch 22 at the business end of the cycle, particulary with the media and thus with the public. It's a frustrating game to play and activists and members will only do it for so long before they look elsewhere.

All in all, it's not looking all that hot for some magical new left party to fall out of the sky and fulfill all my dreams. Or even give me something to get excited about and work tirelessly for.

Comments and thoughts please.**

* The rumour does NOT start here. I'm just speculating and have no inside info whatsoever.
**Obviously those on topic will be more appreciated than comments that merely seek to attack the left, lefties or left wing parties.

Monday, October 09, 2006

What might have been...

Will Gore run again? The below suggests not. However it does also tend to suggest that two of the barriers he faced last time (being wooden and humourless) are now things of the past...

Hat tip: Sethop's Interesting Times

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Note to many


A conversation has begun here about the final of the first David Tennant series of Doctor Who, Doomsday. I'd really appreciate your contributions.

Ta muchly,

Under pressure - the flipside

In my post Under pressure I wrote about the pressures I face to have a child, asap. That pressure hasn't really lifted.*

But anyway this post is not about that. This post is about the flipside of the pressure I face to have children. It's about the judgement many women face when they do get pregnant and some people judge it to be a Bad Thing.**

Cactus Kate has blogged in defence of Keisha Castle-Hughes who has announced she is pregnant and has been attacked from various quarters for daring to get with child. Notable with her criticism, in the article linked to above, is National MP Paula Bennett, who goes around the country telling teens not to get pregnant.

I have also been thinking about what happened around the tragic deaths of the Kahui twins. There were many comments swirling around calling for restrictions on beneficiaries fertility (to put it nicely), not to mention thinly veiled claims that Maori are genetically programmed to abuse their children.

I wonder if there isn't a race element to some of this. I note that in both of the above cases I mention the women are not white.

What also bugs me is the ownership this shows. Ownership of women's bodies by Other People (including other women). I've noticed that there are many situations in which women are judged as Wrong for getting pregnant, including:

  • when under an arbitrary age (I can't work out what the current moral number is - 20?)
  • when over an arbitrary age (40?)
  • when they already have Too Many kids (again, no specific number identified, and there does appear to be a racial aspect to this too imho)
  • when they are single
  • when they are not married
  • when they are lesbian, whether they are in a relationship or not
  • when they are intending to be a working mum (or this is assumed)
  • when they are poor
  • when they are a beneficiary
  • when there is a chance the child could have a genetic disease
She's pregnant, let's get over it and get on with supporting her. Yes it will be hard, becoming a parent is always hard and there are often other factors operating in a person's life that make impending parenthood harder for that individual or family. Rather than lamenting the pregnancy itself, how about focusing on making it a positive experience and thus helping the parent(s) to feel supported and loved?

Update, same day 8.49pm: And gosh, I'm stunned, there are commenters judging Castle-Hughes at Kiwiblog within hours of the announcement! Who would ever have thought?

Update, Oct 10th 4.02pm: Maia has also posted on this over at Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty, writing about the element of "choice" and the impact the capitalist structure of our society has on it.

*In particular I have a friend who every time we interact raises it. She always asks "if" I am going to have children, almost as if we haven't had this conversation before (many many times). Although I like her very much I dread those words coming out of her mouth, but they do every time we are together, if not to me directly then to my partner. I haven't yet found a polite way to say "actually this is not really any of your business", and I'm worried that I'll find an impolite way instead...
**I'm struck by the impression that many of those who make these pronouncements are also people who would similarly judge harshly if a woman chose an abortion instead.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Is Brash out on his own?

I'm starting to wonder if Don Brash is operating without safety nets at the moment - according to Matthew Hooton on Nat Rad (and I saw him make similar comments on Breakfast last week) Brash has isolated himself from traditional advisors, including other National MPs. The Herald's business gossip column on Monday this week indicated that Bryan Sinclair was no longer giving Brash the benefit of his wisdom either.

Brash has had his several of his own senior MPs publicly exhibit the miles between him and them over the Exclusive Brethren issue (before Brash took the rather belated step of announcing actually he didn't want anything more to do with them). He also doesn't seem to have had a lot of backing over blood quantum argument (and there's a good opinion piece in the Herald this morning refuting Don's point about Maori health outcomes and choice*). Now he's launched into the police in a way that has many squirming at the thought that Brash is putting political pressure on the operational decisions of the police, which is generally considered rather unwise. And he refuses to retire that inaccurate line that Labour "stole the election".

I'm starting to think that there are some within National who don't particularly want Don to step back from the brink, to start talking policy (what happened to Brash's plan to do this?) and start looking like a possible Prime Minister rather than a grumpy old man.**

How long until Key (or English, or even Brownlee who has actually been looking remarkably statesman-like lately) makes a move?

* Unfortunately behind the Premium Content wall, or there would be a link here.
** Perhaps Brash should have put his recent polemic about Maori into Gizgoole as Russell Brown suggests? Nah, even that wouldn't have made it ok.

A new lease on life IV - the end of the beginning

So tonight's the night that Rose Tyler says good bye to the Doctor and the Tardis, and the regular pay check of being in a successful long-running series.


I'm anticipating I'll need at least two hankies. I get awfully weepy when they get rid of characters I love, even when aren't necessarily killed off for good.

Rose has been a great character, who I've already gone on and on about before. But part of the equation has been the surprise of Billie Piper - she's convincing, not ridiculously good-looking, and a good foil for David Tennant. I'm also very impressed with the actor playing her mum (Camille someone?).

If she does die I'm not sure whether I'd prefer her to find her exterminated or deleted. Or maybe it will all be much more mundane and she'll just get left behind? One thing's for sure though - no one ever dies of heart disease on Doctor Who.

In a way this post is a space-saver for a hopeful discussion about the end of Rose, and the end of this series, after it has screened tonight. Please don't post any spoilers here until after I'm safely ensconsed in front of the telly at 7.30pm.

Update, 10.38am, Sunday 8th Oct 2006: I'm not going to put any spoilers in this post in case there's anyone lagging behind, but I've seen it now and I'll post further about it in the comments below. Also added photo.

Previous posts about the new new Doctor Who series:
- A new lease on life Part I - Doctor White and Doctor Black
- A new lease on life Part II -Cult references soothe the soul
- A new lease on life Part III - the Doctor finds his heart(s)?

And the official BBC Doctor Who site, complete with a game were you get to be a dalek!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dear New Zealand campaign launched

Received an email this morning about the Dear New Zealand campaign, a website aiming to prompt and collate letters from young NZers about their country.

The statement on their About Us page reads:

Our aim from getting you to write letters and for us to publish a book is to:
- Raise contentious issues in New Zealand
- Empower the voice of youth in New Zealand
- Ask serious questions of justice in our society
- Celebrate New Zealand’s society and cultural diversity
- Challenge the reader's thinking, leading to empowered action.
Your passion can influence our country.
The group organising all of this is called Speak Up, and appears to have grown out of the Future Leaders programme run by Excelerator, the NZ Leadership Institute*. The team appear to be mainly working in commerce-type jobs, however Oxfam and Greenpeace are listed as "partners" and any profits from the book will be donated to these two organisations and the Refugee Migrant Service.

Perhaps something many NZ pol bloggers may be interested in following up on, and maybe cross-posting their letters on their blogs?

PS, I should add that the deadline for submissions is Nov 30th.

* Kate, if you are reading this, is this the programme you were involved in?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Is the Young Nats a sexist organisation?

Well this post was inspired by Maria Von Trapp's classy rant over on her own blog about the fight she was having on the Young Nats blog (now sadly defunct) about women's representation and specifically Women's (Rights) Officers.

Having been alerted to the somewhat retrograde attitudes Ms Von Trapp was battling, I had a look at the Young Nats website. And what do you know, almost everyone is a young white man.

Actually some aren't young, that would be those on the history page showing famous ex-YNers, they are somewhat older, and to be fair there is one woman on that page too. That bastion of the pro-woman line, the person who was part of the team that made one of the most vicious and long-lasting attacks on women (and their children) on benefits, yes that's right folks, Ruth Richardson. In the 70 year history of the Young Nats (est. 1936) there is one woman they can lay claim to. Humph. So it seems, from their own website, that women haven't seen (or found) the Young Nationals as a useful stepping stone to greater political positions.

Now MVT referred in her post to the single female on their Exec. She's in the Women's Officer role, apparently. But I couldn't find reference to her on the website. Just an Exec filled with chaps (who look somewhat disturbingly like they are all distantly related, judging by the haircuts).

Of course there will be women in the Young Nats, but when the evidence on their own website is restricted to a shot of some nameless young females on the membership page, and one other picture I noticed that features a young woman (mercifully deemed to be worthy of a name this time, but don't worry the pose rather makes it appear that she is under the control of a male member) then it's a worry. This is potentially the future core of the Opposition after all.

The current National leader has been happy to deal with organisations that severely restrict their own female members*, and claimed he lost a political debate before the election because he was going easy on his female opponent. Perhaps Brash's 1950s attitude to women in public life has trickled down even to the youth wing?

* Is anyone else suddenly thinking about Don Brash's flip-flop on Civil Unions in a new light?

Makeover nearly made over

Nearly nearly finished the categorising of the previous 600+ posts. It's been an interesting exercise, revisiting my earlier writings here.

Also, in exciting Spanblather news, I've finally worked out how to put Recent Comments back in! At this stage it's only 5 comments and I'm not thrilled about the layout, but it's better than a slap in the face with a week old cod.

For others who want to know how to add Recent Comments to their beta-rised Blogger blogs, you need to use the Feed element in the Layout (rather than HTML/Javascript) and put in a feed like this:

with of course your blog URL instead of mine.

Incidentally, for those interested in subscribing to the comment feed of Spanblather, I am hopeful that putting the above URL into Bloglines will do the trick. Could any readers who try this please let me know if this is so?

Ta muchly

Spanblather - papering the cracks with cat blogging since 2004!

You can see more in regard to the wondrous Mara in her lovely new category, which she grudgingly shares with the unresolved legal proceedings against misguided jared of Newtown Ghetto Anger fame.

CHP close up their church

Release on Scoop that the party formerly known as Graham Capill's Christian Heritage Party has decided to call it a day.

Leader Ewen McQueen is quoted as saying:

“For any Christian political party to succeed it needs to be a vehicle that will
unite the Christian vote. We do not believe that Christian Heritage simply
carrying on under its current banner (or even under a different name) will
achieve this. It is time for something completely new.”
Apparently there was a discussion by their National Council, a recommendation to wind up to members, and then a postal ballot amongst the membership. Ninety seven percent voted to end the party.

McQueen also indicated that the key issues of abortion (as in let's not have any) and marriage (as in everyone ought to be in one) were not being addressed by any of the current political parties.

I wonder if this term will see the wind-up of a relatively large number of the minows (ie those outside Parliament). And if many of those from Christian Heritage will seek a new home in United Future or National?

Update, same day, 4.01pm: Posts up on this at No Right Turn and Kiwiblog as well.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Excluding the Exclusive Bretheren

Other blogs, notably No Right Turn, have been following the EB saga with more vigour and detail than I, but I wanted to pick up on one aspect of it all.

Ruth Dyson has intimated recently that she will be considering removing the exemption that EB-owned businesses currently have from union-related labour laws. There has been some discussion that the quid pro quo for this exclusion was that the EB would stay out of politics, but I'm not sure that's written down anywhere. It may be part of the big picture, but I suspect that the exclusion was first given many many years ago and that that wasn't actually part of the decision-making process; it was instead a boon granted to recognise the specific religious requirements of this group, namely that members were not allowed, for religious reasons, to join other groups. Obviously they did some good lobby work at the time and whenever employment legislation has been changed over the year have submitted strongly to keep this in. Idiot/Savant has more on the background of the clauses here.

However this doesn't actually explain why they should get this exclusion when I'm sure there are plenty of other business owners who are also ideologically opposed to unions in the workplace (some even with a near religious fervour) who are not so favoured. (And nor should they be.)

Forget about the EB's possible involvement in all sorts of dodgy politics for a moment (not to minimise it, just for the purposes of this discussion.) Erase from your mind thoughts, such as Oliver has put forward in a comment on NRT, that any removal of the exclusion is utu.

Why should the religion of the business owner determine whether or not their employees can join a union?

In fact, let's take religion out of this equation - why should the employer decide whether or not their workers can join together on issues of their own terms and conditions of employment?

Update, same day, 9.14am: Urbancast has also posted on this very topic.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Crack papering continues - Link Farm!

Any spare online time I have at the moment is dedicated to

  • a) clearing the spam backlog on my Xtra account (gee I love their spam filter - after only 4 days away for work I had 12MB of spam waiting for me); and,
  • b) afixing labels to the over 600 posts on this blog.
Hence some further papering of cracks, this time not with my own posts but by pointing out those of others. Below is a list of posts I'd like to have time to read properly and reply to. If wishes were posts I'd have written at least ten this last week.

Maia's post about Privilege Lists - so glad to know I'm not the only person who has been stuck in a conversation where "of course even being able to talk about this is privilege" has been uttered at some point. Also on Capitalism Bad, Maia's thought-provoking post on abortion looking at different views other the dialectic of pro-life vs pro-choice.

The ultimate post of Che Tibby. It seems like only yesterday I was wrongly assuming his membership of the XX club. Sigh.

Idiot/Savant's article about the role of blogs in political debate, and the resulting, very interesting, comment section.

A post I haven't fully skimmed yet about consent and rape and the justice system, by Ampersand over on Alas.

And of course, how could I avoid mentioning that I am mercifully on the short list of people Johnny the Red intends to refrain from killing. Assumedly that doesn't rule out accidents however.

I hope to return to more regular blogging in the next week or so, as work becomes more manageable and encroaches less on my spare time.